Vacation

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a bit of Mental Health thrown in there.

We never took vacations.

It’s one of my big regrets from Parker and I, but also from Kidlet’s childhood.

There was the year we traveled from Maryland to Florida to see our families.  That was our only family vacation in the 8 years we were together.

I think once we came from Florida, to Maryland, tagging along with my mom.  I guess that was a vacation. During that trip we managed to go over to DC for part of a day. Parker had never been to D.C. and she absolutely loved it.

A few years later when we were living in the homeless shelter up here, we met her family in D.C. for the day while they were on their vacation.

But vacations weren’t really on our radar.

Keeping the lights on, paying off the rent before the eviction notice expired, stretching the food stamps by making it to the food pantries on time. Making it to countless doctors appointments.

Those were the things we worried about.

But not vacations.

Wonder Woman and I leave for vacation tonight. I can’t count the number of overnight trips and vacations we’ve had in the 2 years we’ve been together. This is a belated anniversary trip, something we wanted to do, but couldn’t quite afford to do in September, so we were able to put aside some money and make it happen a bit late.

We’re going to a cabin in the mountains. The mountains are Wonder Woman’s place, she loves the cold. Mine is the beach and the warmth.

We’ve done lots of beach trips, it’s time to hit the mountains. I guess I can bundle up for a few days.

We have a fireplace in our cabin, and there are fire pits in the resort.

I guess I can handle that.

I still have great memories of going to the beach over Christmas on our first vacation. Hanging out in front of the fire together.

I look forward to repeating that.

I still feel weird taking vacations. I still have to remind myself that I deserve nice things. That I deserve happiness. That I deserve to travel and have these experiences.

That I deserve stability.

I’m so used to struggle that it’s hard to settle into stability.

It’s hard to feel comfortable with packing for a trip. It’s hard to avoid overthinking it.

It’s hard to find the balance between “bring absolutely everything you might need” and “if you forget something you can just buy it.”

It’s hard to find the balance between over planning/letting anxiety win and waiting for the last minute/letting anxiety win.

It’s hard to find the balance between being thankful for what I have now, and grieving what I didn’t have then.

We never took vacations.

I deserve this life.

Not Just The Food

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

But also a Really Real Poverty Post.

Last night I got a quick reminder that food insecurity doesn’t end just because there is food in the house.

I was food insecure for a really long time. Parker, Kidlet and I relied on food pantries and handouts from friends and family and there were a lot of times I didn’t know how I was making it through the month. There were times I didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. There were times I ate less or didn’t eat because I was making sure everyone else got enough. There were times I ate food I didn’t like because throwing it away meant one less meal later in the month.

It hasn’t been like that in a few years now. I have plenty of food and even have problems with my limited cabinet space. (How many jars of borscht does one person need, love?) If we run out of an ingredient, I can replace it. If I change my mind about what I want for dinner, I can normally go buy something else. By logistical standards, I am no longer food insecure.

Last night I tried a new noodle replacement. Edamame noodles. They weren’t bad on their own, but mixed in with spaghetti sauce it was a horrible failure.

It was bad.

Wonder Woman couldn’t even hide her hatred of it and I don’t blame her.

I easily made her more (regular) noodles to eat with the rest of the spaghetti sauce while I tried like hell to eat mine.

I tried, I really tried.

But eventually I threw it away.

And then my brain told me, “You can’t eat anything else because you just wasted perfectly good food and there may not be enough food this month.”

Now, I know that’s bullshit. That food was NOT perfectly good.

It was perfectly horrible.

And I’m looking around my kitchen at bags of food sitting on the floor that wouldn’t fit into cabinets. I know I have a freezer that will barely stay closed because I just went shopping. I know there is plenty of food. I know there is money for more food.

But food insecurity doesn’t end just because there is food. Food insecurity is a trauma that doesn’t really go away that quickly.

I went to bed hungry last night. Unable to push past the voice that told me I wasn’t allowed to eat because I’d wasted the food I’d been allotted.

And yeah, one night without dinner isn’t the end of the world. I’m sure there are even those who are saying “You could afford to miss a few meals” (Oh, is that just my internal voice? I’m sure I heard it somewhere first. Who the fuck gave me these messages.)

Anyway, my point isn’t that I missed eating dinner last night. It’s that this stuff has lasting effects that a lot of people don’t think about. The internalized messages, because of poverty, that are so hard to overcome even after things stabilize.

It’s not just about getting food in the houses of people who are living in poverty.

It isn’t just about the food.

Wait For It

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a Really Real Mental Health Post.

One of those that blur the lines because in the days after Parker died it was hard to tell where grief ended and depression began, where mania subsided and constant running for distraction took over.

That first year was probably the hardest year of my life. I found dozens of different methods to cope, trying one thing after another, some of them helping, others being left behind. One thing that kept me going was making playlists based on where I was in my grieving process. There was”Cry” and “Remembering Her” and “Joy” and the one that got the most play was the “You Got This” playlist.

One of the songs on there was “Wait For It” from Hamilton.

For me, that was my song that told me no matter how bad I felt in that moment, if I just kept fighting, things would get better. I just had to wait for it. There were nights that my suicidal thoughts were screaming in my ear, urging me to join Parker out of desperation to see her again. I would put “Wait For It” on repeat, blasting it through headphones trying to drown out the thoughts. It was one of my anthems urging me to just hold on.

I listened to the entire Hamilton soundtrack on repeat hoping that one day they’d put it on TV so that I could actually see it. Seeing it in person didn’t even cross my mind, because that was outside the realm of possibility for me. It wasn’t even on my radar. That was something that other people dreamed of, my hopes were much simpler than that.

But in the three years since then my life has changed. I’ve started seeing more of life, started seeing there is more than just survival. I knew it wasn’t likely, but just maybe, one day I’d get to see Hamilton in person. The soundtrack was such a huge part of my life, I knew the lyrics by heart, seeing it preformed would be amazing.

Tickets went on sale locally. Of course they were way outside of my price range, and they were so hard to get. I knew there was no way.

And then Wonder Woman calls me to tell me some friends were taking us to see Hamilton as an engagement gift.

What?!?!?

This can’t be real.

I spent weeks just knowing it wasn’t real. That any day now someone would tell me it was all bullshit. That I wasn’t really going. I had misunderstood, they had changed their mind, I dreamed it. I refused to get excited, I just got anxious. More and more anxious.

And then the night is here. We walk up the street and I see the marquee. Holy Shit! I’m going to see Hamilton.

Such a mix of emotions the entire show. While there was amazement and excitement and awe, there was also this mix of grief and remembrance. What if she had just realized that she could wait for it. That life could be like this. That maybe one day she could sit in a theater and see something as amazing as Hamilton.

But holding Wonder Woman’s hand, sitting beside her and feeling her emotions, feeling my own emotions, just being there. Actually being present in that moment. The audience disappeared and it was just us and the stage. My anxiety was gone, my grief was gone,

I was enthralled.

I’ve had a hard life, there’s no denying that. I’ve been through more than a lot of people can imagine. I still have a lot to process and heal. But my life is good. Honestly my life is pretty amazing and as hard as it is to see sometimes, I believe I will continue to make forward progress It might be slow progress, but it will be forward progress towards better things. And you know what?

I’m willing to wait for it.

Poor Me

This is a Really Real Pity Party Post.

Sometimes my financial situation gets to me. Tonight, I was doing the dishes, listening to a podcast that happened to be about plus size fashion, and it hit me.

I’m never going to be able to afford those kinds of clothes!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful to be where I’m at compared to where I was. Three years ago I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pay the rent each month and I never knew whether I could keep the lights on. Three years before that I was living in a homeless shelter. But even now, I’m getting help to stay afloat. I mostly wonder if I’ll ever be financially independent.

I’m afraid I’ll never be.

But today that wasn’t what bothered me.

I want more than the bare minimum. I want to be that person who can afford to do shit without worrying about it. Today I’m feeling greedy and I’m honestly in tears because I know that even if I get a degree and get a job and get off disability I’m never going to be “wealthy”. I’m always going to struggle. I will be lucky to ever reach middle class.

I’m in a better place than I was, but I still send a frantic text message asking for money when mobility leaves me and I have to take a Lyft, because that $30 just wasn’t in the budget this month.

I’m lucky to have family that helps me out that way, I appreciate that I have the help, but damnit. I don’t want to need the help. I want to be the person in a good enough position that I can hand out help and not think twice about it. I want to be the person with a house and cars and the ability to travel around the world. I want to be able to see places and do things.

I want to be spontaneous in really big ways and not worry that I won’t be able to buy food at the end of the month because of it.

I want more than poverty and for just this moment, I want even more than middle class.

I want more than I’ll ever have, and tonight, I’m having a really hard time with it. Life really dealt me a shitty set of cards and I played them to the best of my ability, but that doesn’t change where I’m at.

Normally I don’t care about money, so I’m not sure why I’m so upset about it tonight. I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal right now.

It would be nice to live that life though.

And it would have been even nicer to have a life that would have allowed me to get there.

Every Body Remembers Part 1

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

More specifically, this is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Trigger Warning:  Violence, Police Violence, Mention of Drugs

Story time.  This is long, one of my longest posts in awhile.

When I was around 22, my son’s father and I were dirt poor and facing homelessness.  It was the first time my mental health prevented me from working and he wasn’t able to get or hold a job either.

I found a mental health program that would pay our rent for a year if we could find a place under $400 a month.

We looked and we looked,  not finding a single thing.  The offer was about to run out and we were desperate.  Finally we came across a beat-up, slumlord owned, row home in one of the worst areas of the city.

We moved in.

We put our living room in one of the bedrooms on the second floor because bullets were less likely to come through those windows if shots were fired (and they were, leaving a hole in the car I was borrowing at the time).

We were the only white family for blocks.  I got pulled over regularly and learned to carry not only my licence, but my utility bill and even a copy of my lease.  The only people that looked like us in that neighborhood were driving through buying one of the many types of drugs that were sold from most corners and in front of the abandoned houses.

Our time there wasn’t all horrible.  We made friends with the neighbors, both the ones trying to “clean up the streets” and the ones selling the drugs.  We stayed out of the drama and got to know them all as individuals.  We got to know their stories and why they ended up where they were.  We cried real tears when someone we knew well, who just happened to be in a feud with another dealer, was shot in the head and died.

They also looked out for us.  They knew we stood out and could become easy prey so I was often escorted from my car to my house if I had to park far away.  Once, in a miscommunication between us and roommates, our front door got left wide open while no one was home and someone from the neighborhood watched our place for almost 12 hours.  Of course part of that is the fact that no one wants the cops to show up on “their street.”

But one day the cops did show up.

I had just gotten Kidlet out of the tub.  I can still see where I was standing, with my tiny 3 year old, wrapped in a towel, on my hip.  I heard breaking wood and the front door slam open and “This is the police” and countless footsteps stomp through the house and up the steps towards me.  Guns were drawn and pointed at my face.  At my 3 year old’s face.

At My 3 Year Old’s Face.

After demanding to know What The Fuck was going on, my sons father was cuffed and slammed against the stairs.  I remember seeing him, defeated, sitting on the bottom step.

They brought people I’d never seen before in from out front.  People just passing through?  Someone they thought was involved with whatever they thought was happening at my house?

While sitting on the sofa with my still mostly naked son, strangers from out front cuffed and on the floor around me, cops watching me, they threw random clothes at me and told me to dress him.

I asked for a warrant repeatedly.  Hours? later they produced one.  Something about having to remove the judges name being the reason for the delay.  I’m honestly not sure.

They said they saw us dealing drugs through our front door.  Said they had been watching us for years building a case.   My son’s father said it was because we were white, because we could only look like us, and be in this neighborhood, for drug reasons.  They said they had no idea what race we were.  Those two facts do not go together.

My sons father and I smoked pot at one point.  From what I recall we didn’t have any actual marijuana leaf in the house though, we hadn’t smoked in quite some time.  We couldn’t even keep the lights on.  We weren’t getting high.  They found a box of seeds and stems and some paraphernalia.  They threatened to arrest us for that if we didn’t just sit still and shut up and drop it.

A little while later they took what they found and left.  Broken door still sitting wide open with no way to close it.

We never heard another word.

There’s a point to me telling this story, but this is long enough, I’ll tell the rest in a part two.

Hey, Mom.

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

We have a totally different relationship now.

It’s 6am texts with “Hey, mom have you heard this song?” while he’s finishing his shift at work and I’m still sleeping.

It’s check in texts from both of us “How’s work going?” “How are you feeling today?”

It’s almost weekly phone calls and the occasional video chats where we catch up on how life is really treating us and discuss serious world topics that make my heart swell with pride when I realize how grown he really is.

It’s both of us talking about our relationships and how happy we are but also talking about problems and getting advice from a different perspective.

I still love those texts where he shares a song with me.  Music speaks to both of us in ways that a lot of people can’t fathom.  One of my favorite trips was shortly after Parker died, a road trip together, to NY, going back and forth sharing the songs that were getting us through the loss.  By the end we were singing each others songs and crying together.

This morning he sent me one of his current songs.  I did what I do and pulled up the video and the lyrics.

By the end of the first chorus I was crying.

That great big ugly cry that felt like it had been pent-up for years (but it hadn’t).

I knew why he sent it to me.

Not to make me cry, of course, but it spoke to me about his childhood, in a loose round about way, without being specific.  Of hard times he and I had, before he left, where we fought non-stop about everything and anything.  It spoke of a mother, me, who wasn’t well and a kid who finally understood that the mother was doing the best she could.

“And though you say the days are happy, why is the power off and I’m fucked up?”

And the thing is, we could both be reading totally different things into these songs. Sometimes we discuss them and realize we are.  I haven’t had a chance to really talk about this one with him.

I love that he trusts me enough to share this stuff with me.  I didn’t have a relationship with my parents where I could have discussed my music with them at his age, or really at any age.  They didn’t get it, and didn’t really want to.

My relationship with Kidlet is different now.

It’s 2,700 miles different.

It’s full-grown man different.

It’s still pretty damn amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Zoom Zoom

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post

My brain is going a million miles an hour.  I want to talk non stop and explain all of the whys of the world.  But I also know that would annoy the hell out of the people around me so I’m trying to stay calm and quiet.

I wouldn’t want want to be too much.

It’s also really hard to focus on the things I want to get done today.  Hard to settle down and make the decisions I need to make.

I’m spending too much money.  It’s on things I need, a hair cut, food, bills, bills, bills, but it feels like too much as I watch the bank account go lower and lower.

I just got my check and it needs to last.

It’s almost as if I can feel my thoughts running all over the place.  Zooming from one part of my brain to the next.  Constantly trying to keep them contained.  Figuring out which ones are worth hanging on to and which ones need to be dumped out.

I’m constantly pulling myself back on task.

I remember the days when Parker and I would both get manic, feeding off of each other, taking each other higher and higher, spiraling up and out of control.  Boundless energy with no where for it to go.

Today it’s just my thoughts, there’s no energy to go with it.  I’m exhausted, yawning constantly, no real drive to do anything with all of the dreams that are happening inside of my head.

I know most of those dreams will die as this episode passes anyway, so why work on them now.

And that sounds more depressing then it really is.

I used to let my manic dreams take me away, dumping loads of time, energy, and even money into something that I just knew was going to bring me out of the life of destitution I was living.  Now I just stay the course.  I’m using the energy to get further ahead on schoolwork in case of the inevitable crash and I’m writing more.  That’s about it.

I thought a little today about getting a car, then I thought more about it and realized that, that, too, was a manic dream that would have done nothing but gotten me in trouble.  Cars cost more money then I am likely to have anytime soon.

Just in the few hours it’s taken me to write this (lots of distractions), there’s been another shift in my mood . . .up up up, down down down.

Just hanging on for the ride and hoping it stays as stable as it has been.